Baby P. was born in the early hours of Saturday morning. I had been in the nursery at the time, tending to a tiny little 35-week baby who needed observation in the nursery. Soon after the birth, a nurse brought the baby to me and when I looked him, I said, "Oh, he's still alive." He was sooo tiny. So I picked him up and got comfortable in my chair and placed him on my chest. It was so very difficult to watch this little boy die. He didn't want to die. He was moving quite a bit and gagging up blood. I periodically wiped his mouth out so that he wouldn't drown in his own secretions. I asked the other nurse to get me a blanket from the warmer so that he would be warm. She left me and I was then alone with baby P. I began to cry. As I held him, I hummed "I Am A Child of God" to him and whispered comforting words to him. I held his hand and continued to wipe his mouth out periodically. As I placed my pinky to the palm of his hand, he closed his fingers around it. And soon, he gave up and went home.
I was able to give him a bath and get him all cleaned up. I measured him, weighed him, dressed him, took foot and hand prints, and then I took photographs. He is one of the most beautiful babies I've ever seen. What an honor to be a part of this sweet baby's life. What a blessing to be able to hold him during his first and final minutes in this mortal life. I imagine he up to much greater tasks on the other side. He came, he received his body, and he returned to his important work.
I wrote a note about this subject on my Facebook account. I wanted to include it here on the blog.
Sleep in peace, baby P and know that your very short life was meaningful. Know that you left blessings behind you as you departed.
When A Baby Dies
Thank you to all who left such heartfelt thoughts and prayers on my wall regarding the baby that died. Based on some of the comments left, I thought I'd write a note about my experiences. It's easier to do it in this format and there is more room here than in the "comments" section.
As Trish mentioned, I am present in people's lives for the happiest times of their lives. And sometimes, for the saddest. Truth be told, I wouldn't trade any of it for anything. Birth and death are among the most sacred, private, and intimate moments in the circle of life and the fact that I am allowed to be a part of both is an honor unlike any other. Being present for either experience changes who you are. It makes you look deep inside and examine what is important in life. It brings the world into a smaller focus and reaffirms to me, each and every time, that as human beings, we are more alike than we are different. It doesn't matter what people look like, where they are from, what their religious beliefs are, or what language they speak. When it comes to birth, the joy is immense and when it comes to death, the grief is unspeakable. I've attended births and deaths where not a word of English was spoken and yet the emotions and feelings present spoke a universal language. Without understanding their spoken language, I somehow knew exactly what they were saying.
Because we attend to women throughout the spectrum of their pregnancies, we see a range of infants. Some are full term. Some are premature. And some are grossly premature to the extent that there is nothing we can do for them except offer them the most peaceful passing possible. Often these babies are so tiny and underdeveloped that it is difficult for some parents to even look at them, let alone hold them. I don't judge them for that. Each of us handles death differently. That is when I typically step in, drop what I am doing, and just hold these babies until they let go. Every human child deserves the opportunity to be held during its final moments of life. And such was the case with our baby that died last night. I held him for a long time before he finally gave up. There were some circumstances (that I can't go into) surrounding his birth and death that made this a particularly difficult experience. I bonded with this sweet little boy and it was a beautiful honor to hold him for that time, hum music in his ears, hold his hand and speak kind words to him to let him know of his importance.
You can't walk away from an experience like that and not reexamine your life just a little bit. You can't help but count your blessings and be grateful for what you have in life, even amidst the challenges we experience.
Incidentally... Heidi asked how I decompress. The answer to that one is simple... I write. I journal my experiences pretty extensively and it really, really helps to have a place to channel my emotions and feelings. Once I get them down on paper, I am able to move on quite easily, knowing that my feelings and experiences are "safe". Knowing that they are recorded, I am free to let them go completely because I know they are there if I ever need to revisit or reexamine them. Writing absolutely frees me.
I also have a wonderful husband who always knows just what to say or do to make feel better after a night such as last night. And I have wonderful friends and colleagues who offer their support. Last night, nearly every single colleague I work with came up to me separately at some point to offer a hug, a listening ear, or to just say, "I'm here if you need anything." It was a tough night on the unit... it was busy and stressful and yet I'm lucky to work with the people I work with because they make it all bearable.
Did I sleep today? Ha ha ha... no, not really. It's warm outside and my a/c failed. :-( I finally fell asleep around 9:30 this morning and was up by about 2:45pm with a raging headache. Oh well. Such is life. I will go and exercise for a bit and that will help. And then it's off to another night in the birth center where hopefully tonight holds more joy than sorrow.